And just like that, his carefully laid plan for the day was upended. And so was his cup of coffee.
Covering my ears, I stopped for the siren-blaring ambulance to pass through the intersection on my way to work this morning, thinking nothing of its destination. It wasn't until I approached my office building that I noticed the silently flashing lights and the uniform-clad paramedics crowded around a half-naked man lying on the sidewalk just outside the front door. There were far too many of them to actually see much of what was going on, but it looked serious and the ambulance attendants were preparing the stretcher to take him away. A bare glimpse through the crouched shoulders hovering over the man revealed a face I didn't recognize. A spilled cup of coffee lay on the ground two feet away.
Passersby craned their necks for a closer look; the same ones that cause traffic jams on the freeway even when the accident is on the opposite side. Yea, those guys. I walked past, trying not to intrude on the otherwise very-little-and-quickly-evaporating privacy this poor man had while lying exposed there on the cold ground.
"Just like that," I thought. That man could die today.
I wondered if a heart attack had stricken him as he tried to push through the revolving doors into today's madness and chaos. Was he stressed over some meeting? Some client? Some court order that had already ruined his day?
I wondered whether he would survive his morning wake-up call and, if so, would it change his life. And how?
I wondered yet again why it takes wake-up calls like this for us to regroup, step back, and reevaluate the priorities in our lives. Why? Are we that stubborn? When will we ever learn that we cannot thrive on stress; that it is killing us? I wondered what he would do if he survived -- if he would change anything at all, or if he would rush to get back on the very same merry-go-round from which he had fallen.
I didn't wonder if the machine that grinds us up day after day cares when it spits us out on the sidewalk. That, I already knew.
Someone was cleaning up the spilled coffee as the elevator doors opened and I stepped inside. The man was gone and the hustle bustle continued across the spot where he lay moments earlier, as if he had never been there.
Just like that.